On dusty Parthenia south of the ever-inflating Mall, this family affair has stood, thinking seriously about sandwiches, since I was two years old. Stained glass like jigsaw puzzle pieces stretches across the front.
The interior combines deli, with its long, sausage-hung counter disappearing into the distance, with coffee shop, made of wood and brick and frames with self-promoting reviews in them.
The booths are that chlorophyll gum color you might remember from those machines. Flowers sit on the table; Sirius Radio's '60s on 6 plays. The waitstaff will remember the last thing you order, and make you feel like a valued human being.
The first thing I try here is this magnetic draw, highly recommended by Brent's fans. The Black Pastrami Reuben looks civilized enough; the meat is lean and gloriously soft, not piled to the ceiling like a parched Jerry's pastrami but still taller than you can easily bite. You still need to choose your angle of attack, lest your sandwich begin its disassembly before your eyes.
The sauerkraut is mild and adds mostly texture; I usually pull off a few strands to reduce the amount my jaw must unhinge in order to encompass a single, thought-provoking bite. Melted swiss calms down the opinionated rye bread. It's all balanced.
I prefer multiplicities of meat between breads; I rarely get just a turkey or ham sandwich. So when I discover that the #30 (ground chicken burger) can become a #32 (the aforementioned chicken burger with some of that black pastrami draped over it like a romance heroine swooning on a couch), I point and say yes. Those people at Brent's just give and give and give.
The result is generous, and one needs to dig down a bit to get to the burger and marshall it into something one can pick up and devour. The chicken has that dry front-of-the-mouth heat, made peppery and briny by the cool strips of pastrami.
I've been on a kind of tuna/chicken salad kick lately--maybe I'm compensating for my longtime avoidance of celery and relish--so I gave the Whitefish Salad Sandwich a whirl.
The result is a great white cliff of salad that is insanely light and creamy without being cloying. Half a sandwich will do nicely--too much and its well-beaten lightness gets too airy to have fun with. I should have asked for the egg bread to be toasted a little for greater structural integrity. Always make sure your bread is sturdy, kids.
This is a not-terribly-guilty pleasure for me, especially since the chili itself is dwarfed by the accompanying bowls of shredded cheese and chopped onions (Too much cheese? Too much onion? Not computing). The chili is a burly beef-and-bean style, with a real "our camp chef is a big guy named Cookie who whipped this up for us after a long day of driving forty head of cattle" personality.
For sides, the fries are big solid crispy steak versions or the curly type; either is good enough. The baked beans are steamy hot and fresh, honest and slightly saucy. The cup of standard coleslaw hangs around the plate, trying not to be eclipsed.
Brent's is open until nine, at which time you might consider swaying next door to the Stovepiper Lounge (which has existed for two years longer) for drinks. There is a Brent's in Westlake Village, which is barely in Los Angeles County, so I'll barely mention it.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Deli, Diner, American, The Valley, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
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